Meet Eddie, the PTSD support dog

Eddie is read for duty. Taylor Burt /The Sputnik
Eddie is read for duty. Taylor Burt /The Sputnik

Brantford police has a new trauma dog to work with the staff of the police department and people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“We were offered the opportunity to have a post-traumatic stress dog. It was originally offered to the Brantford police and Chief Nelson said ‘well, it belongs with victim services,’” explained Penny McVicar, executive director at Victim Services of Brant.

Eddie has only been with Victim Services for a short time but has already been a big help.

“It’s been a work in progress since March 2015, when they had the first PTSD workshop for first-line responders,” said McVicar. “On Labour Day weekend we actually got him in. He has already brought support to a lot of people.”

Jim Sawkins, Brantford police sergeant, spoke with Nicole Taylor, co-founder of United by Trauma, about PTSD support dogs.

“United by Trauma acquired Eddie through Biscay Water Dogs. Eddie is a Barbet French Water Dog. A rare breed, highly intelligent, very calming breed,” said Taylor, in an email.

“When the first litter didn’t work out, they did offer us a German Shepherd, which I had to turn down, because it didn’t have the right look for what we wanted to do, plus it wasn’t hypoallergenic … We wanted something that would be soft, cuddly and approachable,” said McVicar.

Three other locations in Ontario have participated in the program, including Toronto, Kingston and the Muskoka area. According to McVicar, there are about 14 to 15 PTSD support dogs throughout Canada.

“They started using them out in Delta, B.C. about three or four years ago, and then there were a number of other places in B.C. and Alberta that had dogs … In Alberta, they have some of the dogs in the courtroom doing court support for when somebody is testifying. So hopefully someday Eddie will be doing that as well,” said McVicar.

Extensive training is required for these dogs, which begins at a young age.

“He was in training from the time he was nine weeks old,” said McVicar. “[United by Trauma spent] almost a year and a half training him … he is totally affection trained. He is not treat trained. He doesn’t do anything for treats.”

Eddie is still your average dog, however. McVicar mentions that “He is distracted by squirrels sometimes”.

All the service dogs are named after officers who have suffered from PTSD, or have lost their lives due to it. Eddie was named after Staff Sergeant Eddie Adamson, who worked for the Toronto Police. McVicar explained that Sergeant Adamson was a hostage negotiator and had a traumatic experience on the job, causing him to suffer severely from PTSD. United by Trauma and Victim Services are hoping to support others with PTSD so they don’t need to go through it alone.

“United by Trauma’s main focus is on PTSD,” said Taylor. “[It’s] a volunteer organization made up of first responders purely just wanting to assist our peers that have been affected by trauma.”

“United by trauma was there with dogs to talk about their experience as front line workers and how they were training dogs to be trauma support dogs,” said McVicar in regards to an event. “Anything we can do to help reduce people’s trauma and help them on the road to recovery is really important.”

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